Feeling my darkness – longing for light

Vulnerability is the birth place of all we hunger for

joy creativity faith and love

and there is none of this without risking failure

Be open enough to take the risk to fail.

Brene Brown

Ever since beginning this breast cancer journey I have been more and more aware of the degree of pain and suffering of my life, I notice also that a lot of my focus at times is on the pain and suffering.  It seemed from adolescence onward so many difficult experiences transpired, things that isolated me and took me away from others that it was almost as if I was captured by the darkness.  I now see however I wish to reach for light, for joy, for happiness but could it be that not being too familiar with these things at times I get stuck in a darkness rut?

Lately I am also realising that because my own relationship with my mother was not easy (there were already many hurts in place by adolescence) my ability to connect deeply with girlfriends was damaged to a degree.  I found it difficult to reach out and trust.  To open my heart to connection again.  I can see all of this now in hindsight and because of the amount of work I have done in therapy.  There were always reasons for what happened and life was really a healing journey in which pain would be a very powerful teacher.

In early recovery from addiction I was already very interested in astrology and archetypes, those eternal patterns of human psychological process, understanding and symbology, myths and stories which give meaning to the profound passages we humans go through on the soul’s journey.

When I came across Roger Woodger’s book on the Goddess archetypes and read about Persephone who in astrology and mythology is the feminine aspect of the archetype and planet Pluto I became aware of the underworld themes of my own life reflected in her story.  I became aware that I was a Persephone woman myself.

Persephone is a goddess who lived in the underworld, she has a strong connection to the underground psyche, the great unconscious both personal and collective.  She underwent painful profound passages of loss and stripping away which marked her for this kind of knowing of cycles of birth, loss, death and transformation.  Persephone women are no strangers to suffering, the may have gone through abuse which leads them to become addicts.  They may have had to relegate huge parts of themselves to the Underground.  They may not have been fully accepted by family or culture and this may have sent them out on a journey where they had to be alone and in knowing aloneness they came to know their own soul well and through this understanding of human pain and vulnerability they end up developing insight into others too.

As I am writing this it has occurred to me that understanding and acceptance of this life journey, painful as it can be at times enriches us.  I also means we can be more accepting of our need for alone time to reconnect with the self and don’t have to struggle as hard to be liked or be one of the crowd.

As a young person feeling different this was not how I felt.  I longed to belong to the crowd, to be attractive, easy to get along with and popular but now I see that if I had been these things I would not have been totally me.  Also due to my own negative self concept I may have also judged myself to be less liked or loved than circumstances are now revealing to me that I am.  I also misunderstood that standing on the sidelines and observing did not necessarily mean I was disconnected,  in a way I was more connected to insights and impressions.

My recent hospital stay has brought up for me so many aspects of my damaged past.  The scary near death motor crash of 1979, the three months of hospitalisation pinned to a bed where I could not leave and my range of motion was restricted.  The months of isolation from friends and school, my tentative return and then very close to the coming out of hospital my sister’s cerebral bleed which over the next two years fractured our family relationships and in four years led to my father’s death.  My trip over to the other side of the world where more difficult relationships ensued as I struggled to live and connect.  The four painful abandonments by partners who in leaving blamed me, after treating me cruelly.  My loss of belief in myself and descent into addiction and then my painful realisation that I needed to enter recovery.  The attempt to turn my life around over the next 10 years, the ending of my marriage, entry into a narcissistic relationship and two other accidents.  My entry into therapy and struggle to find the right help.  My sister’s suicide attempt, mother’s illness following major surgery, my older sister’s death and my recent diagnosis with breast cancer.  Phew, that is an enormous amount of suffering and difficulty.

As I write all of this down today I am filled with awe in a way that something in me that is strong has survived and lived through all of this and today I am reminded too that in time all of these conditions passed.  I do believe that despite the dark I have known I can still find the light on many  days.  Indeed it seems the reward for being in the dark and passing through painful feelings or allowing them to pass through and transform me I find the light.  And this is one of the functions of Persephone/Pluto.  We are transformed by opening up to vulnerability and pain and allowing ourselves to be transformed by the darkness which can scare others.

Deep in my soul I know that due to my own Pluto Moon in true mythological Plutonian fashion I am the one whose path has led into the burning flames many times and that after time I do come out transformed, even if black at times and covered in soot and dismissed, disregarded and rejected by those who never knew the full extent of my journey.   And in this I am most certainly not alone as there are so many of you out there enduring your own dark passages and living to tell the tale, with learnings to speak of and share.  I read about all of your journeys here.  It truly is a long and winding road.

Many times over the past few days in hospital the words of that Beatles song have come to me:

Many times I’ve been alone

And many times I’ve cried

Anyway you’ll never know

The many ways I’ve tried

But still they lead me back

To the long winding road

I am still walking the road, even if at the moment following my time in hospital I am resting more.  In some miraculous way in my hour of greatest need people I have felt abandoned by or who did not understand have showed up to support me.  I don’t know if even a year ago I could have opened my heart to allow in this support and love of me in.  I don’t know if I would have felt worthy enough or had healed enough of my own co-dependence.

A few years ago I could not have reached out and expressed my sadness and need at not receiving help, nor given people a chance to know how I was truly feeling.  Its been scary at times to unmask this vulnerability and need and to tell the truth of my story.

I lately often get told by one family member that I am lucky but the truth is I think I have expressed myself more than this person and asked for help.  I have shown that I am vulnerable in a way they have not and it feels a bit invalidating to be told I am lucky when in fact I have taken steps even on the darkest days to reach in some way for the light.

Through blogging, through trips to the park with my dog, through making phone calls to connect with others by life has expanded a little more towards happiness and joy.   By leaving my prison of isolation and pain which at times seemed too large and by taking risks to be truthful and express the dark even though my fear was I would be judged and rejected I have found support and love.

My Leo North Node lesson in any case is all about this.  Its about developing a voice and a will and a power of self expression that is assertive rather than aggressive.  When I started my recent chiropractic treatment which involves breathing and connecting into the navel, heart and throat centres it was my throat centre that was still more blocked than the other two.  I was taught to connect to my gut and tapping it a few times to “speak up”.  My mother’s generation’s pain (1920-1930) was silenced. They could not speak up. They had to endure.  Later generations are turning this around.  Deep inside me there was so much pain it was hard to vocalise or ‘cough up’.

The reward over the last few weeks for opening up my throat and asking and expressing has been love.  I have never felt more surrounded with love and for this I feel so grateful.

At times when I blog I still criticise and judge my own darkness.  When I publish some raw pieces and I don’t get many likes part of me feels I should change my expression, not be so raw.  But I know that this would not be right because I need to be authentic and my value does not rest on anyone else’s opinion.  Learning and living that truth is part of co-dependence recovery.

I feel the journey that we take into the dark is the journey to rescue ourselves.  In the end no one else can do it.  We have to face the fear of the dark and embrace it anyway and we have to be honest, even if our vision is dark and challenges other people. They have a right to their vision, we have a right to ours.  Once we take self responsibility others seem to be more willing to show up.  At least that is my experience.

Opening up and asking has meant having to feel a lot of fear.  One of my deepest fears has been that if I asked for help I would be overpowered.  I now know that was an old fear.  I have the boundaries to say something now if my boundaries are transgressed.

In a moment of synchronicity while writing this I checked my Reader in WordPress and following a shame link came across the Soul Sunday video interviews between Oprah Winfrey and shame researcher Brene Brown.  In one video Brene spoke about our cultures fear of vulnerability and the dark she also spoke about how it is the birthplace of all that we hunger for.  Some of her words headlined this piece I was writing this afternoon.

Today after four or so dark days the light is returning for me.  It feels as though Persephone is coming up for air on one of her upper world visits just in time for the Pisces New Moon tomorrow that falls not very far away from opposition with my natal Pluto in the first house.  So I guess this blog is right on time.  And the day ends with me feeling so much stronger  and lighter than I was this time yesterday, aware of so much more, grateful too for so much.

The need to express

When we share what is emotionally important to us, we learn to connect with others in a meaningful and healing way.  This applies to sharing concerns that excite and please us as well as those that frighten or depress us.  Perhaps there was no more detrimental consequence of our childhood abandonment than being forced to habitually hide our authentic selves. Many of us come out of childhood believing that what we have to say is as uninteresting to others as it was to our parents.

Authentic sharing can be triggered and sometimes flashes the survivor back to being punished or rejected for being vulnerable. 

As deep and meaningful connection with another becomes more available and frequent, the survivor increasingly experiences the shrinking of his abandonment trauma.

Pete Walker

How important it is for us to speak the truth about what happened to us.  How difficult this can be for so many of us who perhaps were not allowed to know, or had to develop defences of dissociation or repression to deal with childhood trauma.

Dissociation from trauma is very common and is a result of having had no one to really connect to at the time, no one who could be emotionally present.  In addition it comes as a result of what happens when our authentic feelings of anger, sadness or fear where shamed and invalidated by those around us.  The result of this is that later when we need to feel these feelings we cannot as our expression of feelings are blocked by shame.  We may hear voices of the inner or outer critic telling us there is something wrong with us for feeling this way, we are being too sensitive, over dramatic or worse even making it all up.

In his book on Complex PTSD from which the above quote is taken Pete Walker discusses the essential healing work of grieving which involves the feeling the blocked or shamed feelings of anger, sadness and fear that accompanied our traumas.

When legitimate feelings of anger over violations or hurts were blocked we cannot feel our valid sense of outrage, and if we were shamed for being angry or sad those feelings can be walled off. We develop an internalised punishing or critical shaming voice when we feel or even try to express these feelings.  This is why in recovery it is important to find those who will help us to confront and overcome this shame, those who will hear us, validate us and encourage us to experience and express our legitimate emotions.

So often what happens instead is that as we begin to recover we actually attract others who may seek to shame us in ways we were shamed in the past.  For our own recovery it is necessary to develop enough strength and wisdom to notice when this is happening and to allow ourselves a legitimate feeling of outrage which would prevent this from occurring in order to have good internal and external boundaries.

Self negation is not uncommon for those of us who in childhood were unseen or unheard, left alone in our distress and with painful feelings that were too much to cope with at the time all alone.  These feelings then get driven inside us, deep into our bodies.

This week in therapy I have been reliving the distress of my dental trauma which took place over two years in my teens.  Last Saturday in the process of trying to contain powerful emotions of anger and distress that were emerging as part of my chiropractic treatment I bit down hard on a piece of plastic with the result that I tore part of the veneer off my bridge.  At the age of 17 I lost two of my front teeth as the result of a car accident just a few months after the braces had been removed from my teeth.

Part of the painful orthodontic trauma of the previous two years involved the removal of four teeth, bracing of my teeth and then the wearing of a bridle like head apparatus that strapped around my head and pushed into metal inserts in my teeth pushing my teeth back against my skull.  I had to wear it over night (f0r how long I now cannot remember), I just remember the pain and ache of having to wear it and the sense of deep natural outrage that I was not allowed to express.

Yesterday as I was crying over this after coming into therapy quite dissociated and being brought back in touch with myself by my therapist I cried out “I was just like a wild horse that they tried to bridle”,  “the feeling I had was that I had to pull my head back in”.  Interestingly that week in chiropractic the chiropractor had said that in observing my posture my head was pulled in to my shoulders like a turtle’s head pulled back into a shell (this association has just come to me while blogging).

The therapist and I had both made the connection that the huge smash up only a short while after having my braces removed was some kind of eruption of psychic energy trying to unleash, and the irony of busting the veneer off one tooth this week was not lost on me as in the session on Friday the chiropractor was encouraging me to kick out against being diminished, invalidated while hearing the internal voice “go to your room”.

It felt such a relief yesterday to be able to express all of this in therapy, to be instinctively understood and “got”, to be able to ventilate it and to be returned to a feeling of great tiredness that spoke of facing a fundamental truth I had lost touch with for some time, at least on an authentic bodily level.

I am facing the prospect of surgery in just over one week.  There is much fear abut this.  Part of me wonders if the breast cancer is a result of my tissues having to absorb so much pain and trauma and if I work in therapy the surgery may not be necessary.  I long NOT to have to go through the cutting and yet on some level too I am willing to face it, to move through it despite my fear so I can find the love on the other side.  Part of me sees the surgery as yet more abuse.  I feel angry that this beautiful wild horse inside me that had to be reigned in could not just have been seen and loved for who and want it was, bucked uneven teeth and all.  Why did I have to be beautified, changed?

Another part of me feels my mother did what she thought was best, and yet why couldn’t I just have been loved, bucked teeth and all?  Why did I have to go through all of this pain simply just to look more acceptable?

Following the first reconstruction work on my teeth after my accident in 1980 I have had to undergo two further painful bridge reconstructions over the past 30 years.  Yesterday I was informed my bridge cannot be repaired in any long term effective way, that the opinion of the dentist is now that I need to have yet another tooth removed and the bridge constructed onto the next tooth which will involve implants which I do not feel strong enough to undergo at this stage. I was really angry with the dentist yesterday (not so much for having to deliver the bad news) but for  saying “presentation is SO important”.  I want to get a second opinion and a more sensitive fucking dentist!!!

Despite all the pain of this today I feel more relaxed, more at home in my body.   The reason is that yesterday in therapy I was able to speak about it and feel the truth of it all through with my therapist.  Painful as that was, tired as I felt, to day there is around me a sense of far greater relaxation and peace.

Still my spirit longs to be unbridled.  I love setting my dog free without his leash to run and this is why.  When I hold him and cuddle him I feel my own pain of that younger self who had to be hurt, who was vulnerable and innocent and subject to so many forces around her over which she was powerless. I grieve for her and yet I know her spirit lives on.  The task for the rest of my life is to love her, to nourish her and to make up to her for all that was taken, to give her a place to run free, to dance, to sing and most importantly to express without shame the deep truth of what happened and what really hurt.

 

 

My wish

This a cry from the heart blog which comes from a very raw and vulnerable place.  I just spoke to my sister and when I ended the call, I was brimming with sadness and inside my heart from the ache I was feeling came the cry “I wish my sister wasn’t on medication”.

I also wish my sister had never had to go through the violence of shock treatment which she did two years ago. I felt sick today while we were talking, my sister is suffering really bad nausea and a headache because she has recently had her medication changed. I cannot tell you how many different medications she has been on over the past 10 years but after her suicide attempt two years ago I had to take home a bag of empty packets she used and there were about five different meds in it. When I googled several of them I read the following “may cause (amongst a heap of other things) anxiety”. WTF.

Sorry is it obvious I am in a recovery programme and have been for over 20 years and I HATE THE FUCKING MEDICALISAED PSYCHIATRIC SYSTEM which offers fuck all insight into childhood at times and just resorts to drugs?

While my sister was in intensive care following the suicide attempt in 2013 a doctor asked me :

“why is your sister on an anticonvulsive.”

I was so distressed that I exploded.

“You want to fucking know why, because they don’t have a clue, they play Russian roulette with her meds and take a look at the result, without any awareness we have a family history of alcoholism on my mother’s side.”

I expected them to send in the men with white coats and put me in a straight jacket, following my angry outburst.  I had really screamed in the middle of the ICU unit.  Instead I was stunned to see them treat me with tenderness and a new found respect. The nurses took me to another room and sat me down while I began to cry and tell them about our history. They had put my sister on yet more medication which they then decided to stop. They showed real compassion and care for me and for my sister.

Possibly my sister needs to be on meds as it is clear she cannot manage her moods alone and without this, but never the less it makes me feel so very sad to see what she has to go through and the lack of emotional nurture and insight that at times surrounds her. My heart breaks for her. I wish she had a therapist, that she could explore the impact of her childhood, and our family with, as I have done as I believe it may help her more, but in the end it’s not my decision and its out of my power and control.

At the moment I am just aware that my sister is suffering deeply and I can’t do anything but call her, show my support, concern and love and then let go to focus on my own recovery.

I can also share about these feelings in a blog for at the moment there is no recovery meeting to go to pour it out.  Just being able to voice it in this space will help me to process and come to terms with my feelings and the burden I feel in seeing another sister suffer in this awful way with so many memories of how my other sister ended up at the end of her life bloated from all the drugs they gave her that never took away the deeper pain she suffered until it all got to much and death came for her last year.

Having written this I am aware both sisters could have tried to find a healthier way, but could not.  This gives me the incentive to keep working hard to heal myself and make healthy choices and find a way to deal with the feelings in a positive way.